Syrian airlines launches first flight to Baghdad

/ Source: The Associated Press

Syria's first private sector airline company launched its maiden flight to neighboring Baghdad this week, a company official said Saturday.

The flight by "Ajnehat al-Sham," Arabic for the "Wings of al-Sham," took off from Damascus International Airport and headed to Baghdad on Thursday.

Salim al-Sodah, deputy general manager of the company, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Saturday that the flight had been scheduled to take off on Dec. 30, but was postponed due to "bureaucratic reasons from the Iraqi side." He did not elaborate.

Al-Sodah said the MD 83 plane, which accommodates 165 passengers, took off on Thursday with 65 passengers on board. He said the airline will operate three flights a week from Damascus to Baghdad for the round trip price of $570.

He said the company has also gained approval from the Iraqi government to fly passengers from Baghdad to Sweden and Denmark, but did not say when those flights would start.

Al-Sodah added that the company would soon start operating charter flights between Damascus and Basra in Iraq, and between Syria's two local airports, Aleppo and Latakia in northern Syria, to Baghdad and Basra.

The limited liability company was established by Syrian investors and has previously organized charter flights from Damascus to Sharm el-Sheik in Egypt.

Al-Sodah said the company plans to organize flights to areas where Syria's flag carrier does not fly and aims to attract tourists.

Syrian Airlines resumed regular flights to Baghdad in October 2005 for the first time since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, but the flights were stopped soon afterward due to security concerns.